Over the last year or so, my brothers and I have been writing a book about our childhood. It’s turning out to be a very interesting book (for us at least) as we’ve come to reflect on the early stages of our lives, our parents and how and why they raised us in the way they did, and how we remain influenced by them to this day.
If it doesn’t bore you to death, I’d like to share some photos from my childhood with you. You see, one of the things about my childhood is that my parents were always taking photos of me and my brothers. When I say ‘taking photos’, I mean always taking organised photos – all of us together, in birth order, well-dressed (although often in skivvies and stretch pants), hair combed – you know, those awkward family photos. Photo after photo we were made to pose, year after year. (Photos 1-6) 私の両親はいつも私たちの写真を撮っていました。
Eventually of course, we came to hate having our photos taken together like that in such an organised way and we began to muck up in them (7), dress oddly in them (8), do absurd poses (9), put on mock smiles in them (10) and finally digitally sabotage them (11).
We often wondered why our parents went to such trouble – so often – to take photos of us like that. なぜそこまでして私たちの写真を撮りたかったのか不思議に思いました。
Here are some photos of our family home. You might see nice gardens here. What my brothers and I see are many gardens which required lots of weeding.
My parents were also pretty strict when it came to things like bedtimes and table manners (you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that from the way I eat now – I’m content to eat a whole steak with just a fork!). 私の両親は寝る時間やテーブルマナーなどに関してはかなり厳しかったです。
At the time, we couldn’t understand many of the rules and the ways that our parents had set out for us. But they were our parents and we trusted them, however annoying or inconsequential things might have seemed at the time. 当時はルールの多くや両親のやり方が分かりませんでした。でも私たちの両親であったから信頼していました。
Looking back, we have a much better view of why our parents raised us as they did.
All those photos. They were proud of us and they wanted to keep a bountiful record of our family as it grew up. And as a result, we actually enjoy many of these photos to this day.
All that weeding. It kept the gardens looking nice and taught us that being a part of the family meant that we shared in the responsibility of taking care of the home. It developed in us a work ethic. (It’s probably no coincidence that 3 of the 4 of us are self-employed today – the 4th works full time for the church!)
All those table manners and bedtimes. Our parents wanted us to have healthy, hygienic lives. It paid off. We’re all healthy and have relatively clean lifestyles.
Looking back, we can see more clearly what we always knew: that our parents loved us. We were loved. And now we know what love is to pass that on to our children.
Now, you might be thinking that I’m raising all this because little Leon was dedicated today and I want to tell Nicholas and Asaka that they should take lots of photos and be strict with bedtimes and weeding.
Actually no! (Not at this time, anyway.) This has to do with the book of Deuteronomy.
Review the first 4 books of the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers.
The book of Deuteronomy is something of a review of what’s gone on so far in the history of the world and especially in the history of the nation of Israel. In a sense, it’s a look back on God’s parenting and Israel’s childhood. Structurally the book looks like this:
2. Historical Prologue – a review of what’s gone on so far. (chs 1~4)
3. Stipulations of the Covenant – a reminder of all the laws and requirements that God has set out throughout the first four books (with some fresh applications (Chs 4~26)
4. Ratification; Curses and Blessings – for breaking or keeping the law (Chs 27~30)
5. Leadership Succession under the Covenant (Chs 31~34)
So you can see that most of the book is a review of the law and a reminder of how the law was to be applied. But when you read through Deuteronomy, there’s one thing that is noticeably different about this book from the other four. I noticed it as I was reading through it and this was confirmed as I looked into various commentaries. Deuteronomy is steeped in God’s love for His people. Of course, the first four books are closely tied to God’s love as well but His love seems to be particularly lavish in Deuteronomy.
Look at this: Frequency of the word ‘love in the Pentateuch:
Genesis: 21 Exodus: 5 Leviticus: 2 Numbers: 2 Deut: 32
Theme as per NIV: The love relationship of the Lord to his people and that of the people to the Lord as their sovereign God pervade the whole book.Sample verses:
Deuteronomy 4:37 Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength,
Deuteronomy 5:10 showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Deuteronomy 6:5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
Deuteronomy 7:12 If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors.
Deuteronomy 7:13 He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers.
Deuteronomy 10:12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
Deuteronomy 10:15 Yet the Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations—as it is today.
Deuteronomy 10:18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.
Deuteronomy 10:19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.
Virtually every chapter has words and instructions of love.
Deuteronomy puts the history of Israel into a righteous context of love. Just as in our book, my brothers and I look back on our childhood and finally see and understand many (but still not all!) of the ways and rules my parents put in place and see that they were good, so the book of Deuteronomy looks back on the childhood of the nation of Israel and brings understanding to many (but probably not all!) of the ways and laws of God and sees that they are good.
We used to wonder why Mum and Dad were always sitting us on birth order to take photos. Perhaps in much the same way, the Israelites used to wonder why God always had them marching out in a determined order, tribe by tribe, clan by clan dressed in certain clothes.
We used to wonder why table manners were necessary.
Perhaps in much the same way the Israelites used to wonder why there were so many requirements when it came to food.
We used to wonder why Mum and Dad insisted on us doing all those chores.
Perhaps in the same way the Israelites used to wonder why there were so many regulations for running the country and worshipping in the temple.
Just as we look back and see how (just about) everything stemmed from the love of our (imperfect) parents and how they loved us and taught us to love and how they continue to love us, so the Israelites could look back and see how everything stemmed from the love of a perfect God and how He loved them and taught them to love and continued to love them.
Deuteronomy reminds us that God is a God of love, just as Jesus reminds us that God is a God of love. As a loving Father, He lays down laws – most of which are easy to see as wonderful, while some – coming as discipline – are harsh and others are difficult to understand. Yet as a loving Father, he not only laid down the law which lead to a knowledge of righteousness, he also laid down His Son, who was Righteousness, so that we would be spared the second death and have eternal life.
Today, let’s celebrate the eternal love of God. 今日、神の永遠の愛を褒めたたえましょう。